Food & Drink

Oaxacan-Style Tlayudas

During my college days, I spent some summers in Ciudad Oaxaca, Mexico. One of my favorite taste memories of the time – in addition to their rich moles – was a street food called tlayudas (pronounced “lie-YOU-das”).


Folks line up for tlayudas in the wee hours of the morning as they venture home from bars and other late night activities and the tlayudas carts are usually “manned” by women, who cook them over hot coals. 

Tlayudas are toasted or grilled flour tortillas smeared with a spicy black bean puree and other toppings such as carne asada, chorizo  or chicken and served open-faced like a tostada, or folded in half like a calzone or quesadilla. One of the keys to an authentic tlayuda is the use of the pasilla de Oaxaca chile. The smoked, dried chiles can be hard to find (you can order them online), but have a wonderful, smoky flavor that’s hard to duplicate with other chiles. I prefer to cook tlayudas on a grill, but you could also do them in the oven. 


1 Tbsp olive oil

1 small white onion, peeled and diced

1 garlic clove, peeled and minced

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 15-oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed

2 dried pasilla de Oaxaca chiles

1/2 tsp. brown sugar

Pre-cooked shredded chicken or beef (carne asada). 

4 x 8-inch flour tortillas

1 cup crumbled Mexican cheese such as queso fresco

Assorted optional toppings such as shredded lettuce or cabbage, chopped tomato, cilantro, jalapenos, lime juice, etc. 


  1. In a skillet, saute the onions in olive oil over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and cumin and cook for another minute or so to combine flavors. Set aside.
  3. Place the de-stemmed chiles into a pan with boiling water. Turn off the heat and allow the chiles to reconstitute for 5-7 minutes, until soft. Remove the chiles, but save the cooking liquid.
  4. In a food processor or blender, add the onion mixture, black beans, drained Oaxaca chiles, brown sugar and a quarter cup of water or leftover chile liquid. Blend until you have a smooth puree. Add additional water if the puree is too thick. It should be about the consistency of thick pizza sauce.
  5. Smear a layer of the puree on each of the tortillas, like you were making a pizza. 
  6. Add a layer of cheese and (optional) chicken or beef.
  7. Preheat your grill to medium-high heat or an oven to 450 degrees F.
  8. Lay the tortillas on aluminum foil for the grill or a baking sheet for the oven.
  9. Bake or grill the tlayudas until they are browned on the edges, about 5-7 minutes or so.

Add optional toppings and serve open-faced, cut into pizza-style triangles, or folded over like a quesadilla.

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